Although there had been exceptions like the outlandish Ford V8 specials created by the Romanians for the 1936 Monte Carlo Rally, rallies before World War II had tended to be for standard or near-standard production cars, a rule supported by manufacturers because it created a relatively even playing field. After the war, most competing cars were production saloons or sports cars, with only minor modifications to improve performance, handling, braking and suspension. This kept costs down and allowed many more people to afford the sport using ordinary family cars, so entry lists grew into the hundreds.
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Most of the works drivers of the 1950s were amateurs, paid little or nothing, reimbursed their expenses and given bonuses for winning (although there were certainly exceptions, such as the Grand Prix drivers who were brought in for some events). Then in 1960 came arguably the first rallying superstar (and one of the first to be paid to rally full-time), Sweden's Erik Carlsson, driving for Saab.
McRae died on 15 September 2007 when his helicopter, a Eurocopter AS350, crashed 1 mile (1.6 km) north of Lanark, Scotland, close to the McRae family home. McRae's five-year-old son Johnny, and two family friends, Graeme Duncan and Johnny's six-year-old friend Ben Porcelli, also died in the crash. McRae's previously active website, ColinMcRae.com, was later replaced with a memorial screen stating a few details about the crash, and then with a short statement released on behalf of McRae's father, Jimmy, and later a book of condolences.
Initially, most of the major postwar rallies were fairly gentlemanly, but the organisers of the French Alpine and the Liège (which moved its turning point from Rome into Yugoslavia in 1956) straight away set difficult time schedules: the Automobile Club de Marseille et Provence laid on a long tough route over a succession of rugged passes, stated that cars would have to be driven flat out from start to finish, and gave a coveted Coupe des Alpes ("Alpine Cup") to anyone achieving an unpenalised run; while Belgium's Royal Motor Union made clear no car was expected to finish the Liège unpenalised – when one did (1951 winner Johnny Claes in a Jaguar XK120) they tightened the timing to make sure it never happened again. These two events became the ones for "the men" to do. The Monte, because of its glamour, got the media coverage and the biggest entries (and in snowy years was also a genuine challenge); while the Acropolis took advantage of Greece's appalling roads to become a truly tough event. In 1956 came Corsica's Tour de Corse, 24 hours of virtually non-stop flat out driving on some of the narrowest and twistiest mountain roads on the planet – the first major rally to be won by a woman, Belgium's Gilberte Thirion, in a Renault Dauphine.[unreliable source?]
The 959 was one of the most technically advanced road cars of its time, variable torque-split all-wheel drive, tire-pressure monitoring, and a twin-turbo flat-six making over 400 horsepower. Porsche decided to show off the car's capabilities not by taking it racing, but by taking it rallying at the Paris-Dakar. This Rothmans-liveried legend is what resulted.
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What do you do when you're Mercedes-Benz in the late 1970s and you want to go rallying, but your sportiest car is a luxury cruiser that isn't very sporty? You take the C107 SLC Coupe rallying anyways. In an era dominated by nimble cars like the Lancia Stratos and Ford Escort, the 450SLC must have been quite a sight, but Mercedes actually had some competition success. Mercedes won the 1978 South American rally and was able to get 4th place in a Manufacturers Championship.
After the crash, an investigative team from the UK Department for Transport Air Accidents Investigation Branch attended the scene in co-operation with Strathclyde Police. The wreckage of the helicopter was removed to Farnborough for further forensic investigation. A report into the accident was published on 12 February 2009. In it, the AAIB did not reach a definite conclusion as to the cause of the accident, stating instead that "the helicopter crashed in a wooded valley while manoeuvering at high speed and low height. It was intact prior to impact, and the available evidence indicated that the engine was delivering power. The cause of the accident was not positively determined. Although no technical reason was found to explain the accident, a technical fault could not be ruled out entirely. However, it is more likely that the pilot attempted a turning manoeuvre at low height, during which the helicopter deviated from its intended flight path; whether due to the pilot encountering handling difficulties, misjudgement, spatial disorientation, distraction or a combination of such events. There were indications that the pilot had started a recovery but, with insufficient height in which to complete it, the helicopter struck trees in the valley and crashed, killing all four occupants."
Since then, the nature of the events themselves has evolved relatively slowly. The increasing costs, both of organization and of competing, as well as safety concerns, have, over the last twenty years, brought progressively shorter rallies, shorter stages and the elimination of nighttime running, scornfully referred to as "office hours rallying" by older hands. Some of the older international events have gone, replaced by others from a much wider spread of countries around the world, until today rallying is truly a worldwide sport. At the same time, fields have shrunk dramatically, as the amateur in his near-standard car is squeezed out.
Rising investor confidence also indicates a rally, and it is perhaps more powerful than any economic indicator because when investors believe something is going to happen (a rally, for example), they tend to take action (purchasing shares in order to profit from expected price increases) that actually turn expectations into reality. Although it is an objective concept, investor sentiment shows through in mathematical measurements such as the put/call ratio, the advance/decline line, IPO activity, and the amount of outstanding margin debt.
1968 brought the first of a series of British-organised intercontinental rallies, the Daily Express London-Sydney Marathon, which attracted over 100 crews including a number of works teams and top drivers; it was won by the Hillman Hunter of Andrew Cowan/Brian Coyle/Colin Malkin. Not to be outdone, the rival Daily Mirror sponsored in 1970 the London-Mexico World Cup Rally, linking the stadia of two successive football World Cups, on a route that crossed Europe to Bulgaria and back before shipping out from Lisbon to Rio de Janeiro, after looping around South America, and a run through some of the most frightening sections of Peru's road race, the Caminos del Inca, they wrap it up being shipped to Panama and a final run up Central America. The Ford Escort of Hannu Mikkola and Gunnar Palm won. These were followed in 1974 by the London-Sahara-Munich World Cup Rally, and in 1977 by the Singapore Airlines London-Sydney Rally.
McRae's outstanding performance with the Subaru World Rally Team enabled the team to win the World Rally Championship Constructors' title three times in succession in 1995, 1996 and 1997. After a four-year spell with the Ford Motor Co. team, which saw McRae win nine events, he moved to Citroën World Rally Team in 2003 where, despite not winning an event, he helped them win the first of their three consecutive manufacturers' titles. He was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire for services to motorsport in 1996.
The First World War brought a lull to rallying. The Monte Carlo Rally was not resuscitated until 1924, but since then, apart from World War II and its aftermath, it has been an annual event and remains a regular round of the World Rally Championship. In the 1930s, helped by the tough winters, it became the premier European rally, attracting 300 or more participants.
Pacenotes are a unique and major tool in modern rallying. Television spectators will occasionally notice the voice of a co-driver in mid-race reading the pacenotes over the car's internal intercom. These pacenotes provide a detailed description of the course and allow the driver to predict conditions ahead and prepare for various course conditions such as turns and jumps.
McRae was married to Alison, and had two children, Hollie and Johnny. McRae moved to the principality of Monaco in 1995, partly through his friendship with David Coulthard. However, as his young family grew up, he spent more time back at his home in Lanarkshire—accepting the higher tax liability of living in Scotland. The couple bought the 17th century Jerviswood House.